We are all salespeople, from the President of the United States to a bum on the streets. The art of salesmanship starts developing when a baby figures out that they can get attention for crying at any time of the day or night. How often have you witnessed a parent picking up a pacifier over and over again to keep their baby quiet, especially when the parent is trying to carry on a conversation with another person. At first, a baby cries because they are uncomfortable or in pain and someone responds to fix the situation. It does not take the baby very long to try crying just to get attention when they are bored. In a few years, that same toddler will be selling their parent on buying them a new toy or treat they want by using the method they have learned works best for them throwing a tantrum, begging, or exceptional behavior. Children are natural at selling their wants to the adults around them.
Fast forward a few years and the natural talent of selling is maturing to the art of salesmanship. Teenagers have learned alternative methods to crying to gain attention and rewards. By this age, those with advanced salesmanship skills are emerging as leaders and achievers within their social groups and school environment, some are excelling as social leaders such as the prom queen or cheerleaders while others are excelling as academic achievers as the debate team president or science fair winner. Occasionally, a student will excel in both leadership roles. At this point in their lives, the biggest reward for them is still what they receive from their parents in the way of attention. If their achievements are met with indifference or neglect by their family, their future self worth or esteem may be shattered. In a few cases, outside observers of these kind of situations have intervened to provide emotional rewards for the student that would have otherwise been missing. In doing so, the teenagers reward system is broadened and their potential of success is encouraged.
The difference between an over-achiever and a slacker may be rooted in how well they were able to sell themselves as small children and what rewards they obtained doing so. If self worth and self esteem were not part of their reward system, they may not be able to sell themselves effectively as adults. The value system of rewards learned from birth affects our behaviors throughout our lives. Rarely do adults re-evaluate their childhood value systems and make adjustments that will change their method of selling themselves. Remember this the next time you give in to a childs tantrum with a reward of what they want instead of taking the time to give them what they need. It might make the difference of whether you are the parent of a CEO or a janitor.